Wednesday, April 2, 2003

Suit claims man raped in jail cell

By Jim Hannah
The Cincinnati Enquirer

COVINGTON - An 18-year-old who says he was gang-raped in the Grant County jail after being arrested for a traffic violation has sued jail and county officials and the five inmates who have been indicted on charges relating to the attack.

The lawsuit said officials failed to properly supervise the jail. It says they knew or should have known that the man would be attacked because similar incidents have happened in the large holding cell, because an informant was housed in the adjoining cell, and the man pleaded for help.

After being booked at the jail, according to the suit, the 125-pound 18-year-old was placed in the general population of the jail where he was attacked. The suit alleges the man was stripped of his clothes, carried overhead by a mob of prisoners and led to the showers. The violent attack, rape and sodomy carried on through the night, according to the suit.

Defendants include Jailer Steve Kellam, three deputies, a jail nurse, an unknown number of unidentified staff members and the Grant County Fiscal Court, including Judge-executive Darrell Link.

The Enquirer is not naming the man who filed suit because of the nature of the case.

The suit, filed March 27 in U.S. District Court in Covington, asks for a jury trial and an award for damages.

"It is a very difficult suit to read, specifically when it describes the attack," Link said. "It personally saddened me to read it and to find out five people have already been indicted in connection to the attack. The whole event was inhumane."

State police arrested the man shortly before 10:30 p.m. on Feb. 13 in Pendleton County on charges of speeding and attempting to elude police. Pendleton County does not have a jail, so he was driven to the Grant County jail in Williamstown.

In the separate criminal investigation of the reported rape, Kentucky State Police said they were looking into what role, if any, the jail staff had in the alleged attack. State police said they could not confirm the claim made in the suit that similar attacks had happened in the cell where the man was held.

Jailer Steve Kellam, a constitutionally elected official, could not be reached for comment Tuesday afternoon, but Link said he was looking forward to the completion of the state police investigation. He said he wants to know whether any officials violated their duties.

As part of the criminal investigation being led by state police, the five inmates named in the civil suit have already been indicted on charges stemming from the reported rape. Victor Ray Zipp, Alexander B. Castillo, Robert J. Tester, Edward Allen Pelfrey and Christopher W. Harris were each indicted March 12 on charges of first-degree sodomy and fourth-degree assault.

A trial in their cases has been set for May 30.

Three of the inmates named in the civil suit are state prisoners serving their time in the Grant County jail, according to the state corrections Web site.

Harris, 20, was sentenced in Jefferson County court to two years for third-degree burglary and two years for second-degree unlawful transaction with a minor. Zipp, 28, was sentenced in Kenton County to three years for third-degree assault. Castillo, 19, was sentenced in Grant County to one year for second-degree criminal possession of a forged instrument.


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